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Youth Sports Specialization

On this episode of the #AskMikeReinold show we talk about some of the issues surrounding early youth sports specialization. This is becoming more and more of a concern, but rather than fight it, how do we best navigate it to protect our young athletes and help them achieve their goals? To view more episodes, subscribe, and ask your questions, go to mikereinold.com/askmikereinold.

 

#AskMikeReinold Episode 121: Youth Sports Specialization

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7 replies
  1. Chris Miller
    Chris Miller says:

    Youth Sports is a multi-billion dollar business, driven by adults. Kids now play year-round baseball, or hockey, or soccer simply because “we can.” But, specialization before high school has not proven to be beneficial for anyone, except for those making money off of it. The original “cross-fit” in my mind was the ability to play different sports throughout the year. The best players on my college team were 2 or 3 sport athletes.
    Another angle is what is the ultimate goal. I always ask “then what.” Meaning, so you play travel baseball at age 8… then what, so I play in showcase tournaments at 10… then what, so I can play in top travel teams in high school… then what, so I can play in college, big leagues. This is not realistic. The percentage of kids who go on to play at these higher levels are ridiculously low. John O’Sullivan, author of “Changing the Game Project” offers some startling insights and even statistics about youth sports. For example, 70% of kids STOP playing sports by the age of 14! I felt like I finally was coordinated enough at 14 to see some success in sports.
    At the end, we as therapists, parents, and coaches need to really look at why we are doing all of this to our kids. Why not teach the love of the game, the joy of playing different sports. The cream will rise to the top regardless. Simply look at soccer’s World Cup going on right now. Where is USA? No where. So, how is that early specialization working out???
    On a personal note, my daughter (turning 8 next week) really loved gymnastics. She was putting in 5-6hrs a week for the last year and a half. She came to my wife and me a month ago and said she was tired of gymnastics and wants to stop. She was pretty good, but burned out… how sad is that. Shame on me… we all need to wake up and realize we are NOT helping our children with our present system.

    • Mike Reinold
      Mike Reinold says:

      Hi Chris, I think you really said it well and your daughter is a perfect example! I do know as a profession we’ve been saying all that for at least a decade and it’s only getting worse. I think we need to keep preaching that but I also think as a profession we need to also figure out a way to navigate that as well, it’s likely just going to get worse!

  2. Frederick Pauly
    Frederick Pauly says:

    In the sport I coach in (fastpitch softball), division I schools had been offering and getting verbal commitments from 6-7-8th graders……which IMO is beyond stupid. The rules recently changed and pushed this back so finally a little sanity in our sport. Verbal offerings cannot happen now until a students junior year. But as you were suggesting that waiting until your junior year in high school to specialize…..this would not work for 80-90% of the softball players chasing a DI scholarship. Those kids would be so far behind the learning curve that almost all scholarship money would be gone by that time. However, specializing early….say 8th grade to freshman year would work…..if the kid gets into a well rounded strength, conditioning, and agility program……with agility being the key ingredient. Now this may not be necessary for all sports but it is for softball.

    • Mike Reinold
      Mike Reinold says:

      I think you are right. It stinks, but you are right. I think the next best option may be to concede the 3 sport athlete and just have the 2-sport athlete. Play a different sport in fall and spring, and train for them in summer and winter. I’d be happy with that compromise.

  3. Colby
    Colby says:

    In regards to injury, I think the idea of playing multiple sports is that you have the opportunity to “unload” parts of the body that get overworked in one season that will have the opportunity to rest or at least work in a different fashion during another season. If a kid specializes in a sport its probably fine as long as they give themselves an off-season and an opportunity to rest. And then obliviously going through a supervised training protocol to enhance the training in season and out of season.

    Other part of the discussion is the culture in which we live. We are a very “results” based culture where in sports, especially in youth sports, it is all about winning and losing instead of proper development of being an athlete.

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